In a world of endless sharing, I will not reveal my secret tattoo – how infuriating is that? | James Colley

It’s not outrageous, elaborate or wild but it is special to me – you’d understand if I showed it to you, which I will not

I have a secret tattoo. Or, at least, I did. It was my little secret and I’ve loved every minute of it. Even telling you that it exists takes away a little bit of the magic. This might be killing my golden goose. I’m not going to tell you what it is or where it is, though.

How infuriating is that?

It’s good gossip, too. Or, a surprising development at the very least. I am not the tattoo type. I am oddly precious about anything that’s permanent even though on a deeper level I understand that I myself am not permanent. It’s as if I am worried that God will not give me the bond back on my body when it’s all said and done. Although, on a countback, a little drawing on the skin probably ranks among the least damaging things I have done to it.

My main fear was that there are so precious few things in my life that I do not come to regret just a few years later.

Part of my personality structure seems to be constantly killing off the me from five minutes ago and claiming that I’ve never met him. There have been various points in my life where I almost, almost, almost got my first tattoo and in retrospect every one of them would have been a terrible mistake.

What pushed me over the edge this time?

Well, you have to understand it was a very special tattoo, designed by a friend, and about a time that I knew in my heart I would always want to mark. It’s not particularly outrageous, elaborate or wild but it is special to me. You’d understand if I showed it to you, which I will not be doing.

It’s exhilarating to have a secret, even if no one really cares about it.

It feels so normal now to share absolutely everything about yourself to as wide an audience as possible. Particularly something like this which makes for such good content. You get a nice picture, people can say that they like it, others can privately message their group chats about how much they hate it. It’s good fodder for the constant content churn. It’s only when you choose not to participate in it, just once, that you realise what a hold it has over you.

In a world that rewards constant, endless openness it’s nice to be a little closed off.

It’s strange that an external little picture could be what teaches me to have an internal life again. I think it’s more a marker of a slow growing maturity. As we age along with social media, we have to decide what it is we want to share with the world and what is just for us.

Choosing, even completely arbitrarily, to keep something in-house has its own power.

You’re refusing the serotonin hit you know could come from a bunch of comments on social media and instead choosing to find a different kind of satisfaction within yourself. It’s nice to know that some things are done for you and not for the crowd.

Did I have to go to such extremes to experience this feeling? Probably not. A little internal contentment would have done it. Or perhaps hardest of all, having a single thought that I keep to myself instead of blabbering on endlessly just to fill the silence. But we all have our own ways and this is mine.

The worry now, of course, is that I have ruined it.

That this one private note from me to me is now out in the world. Never mind, though, I am already planning on the next one. I’d tell you what I’m thinking of getting, but I trust you’ll understand if I don’t.

• James Colley is a comedian and writer for Gruen and Question Everything


James Colley

The GuardianTramp

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